Fire is one of the most terrible forces on the face of the earth. Whether sparked by natural causes, such as a lightning stoke, or caused by human intent or mistake, there is little else that evokes such fear. Part of our fear of fire is due to its volatile nature and unpredictability. We fool ourselves when we think we can control it, and from time to time we are reminded of this truth in catastrophic ways.
Fire is an indiscriminate force. It plays no favorites. To the degree that a substance will burn, fire will consume it. The more susceptible to flame the substance is, the more quickly it is destroyed by the flames. Our most solidly constructed homes and buildings are still subject to fire, if not by the materials from which they are constructed, at least by the contents we place inside them. Human beings are especially susceptible to the force of fire.
Our bodies are composed of materials that cannot withstand fire. Our hair is especially volatile and can ignite in a moment. Our skin begins to burn if we stay out in the sun too long, and when exposed to flame, it almost immediately begins to blister. Even though our bodies contain a large amount of liquid, fire can reduce them to a mere pile of ash in a short period of time. The most painful injury we can sustain is a burn, and those whose bodies have been severely burned endure extreme pain throughout their recovery.
We generally have a healthy respect for fire because we understand how dangerous it can be. Our fear of this powerful force makes us wary of it in life. Even as we put it to use in our daily affairs, we exercise great caution with it lest we suffer injury or death from it. This respect and fear of fire guides us in life and should also affect the way we think about and plan for eternity.
The reason why it should affect our thinking in this respect is because God has forewarned us that He has fire reserved for the world. In 2 Pet. 3 as Peter dealt with those who mocked Christians’ faith in the coming of the Lord, he said, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (v. 7). He went on in vs. 9-10 to describe how the Lord will destroy everything in the physical realm on the last day by means of fire. In vs. 11-12 Peter urged his readers to consider how they should live, knowing that this fire is certainly coming.
This is not the only fire that is reserved by God, however. In Rev. 20 John was shown a vision of the judgment. In v. 10 John said that the devil would be thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where he would be tormented day and night forever and ever. In vs. 11-15 he described the judgment of all mankind. He tells us that those whose names are not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death (vs. 14-15). This is the same lake of fire into which the devil will be thrown, and all those in this lake of fire will be tormented day and night forever and ever, just as he will.
The most horrible death we can imagine is to be burned alive. The very thought of it makes us shudder. How much more so ought we to fear a fire which will never go out, and in which we will suffer all the pain without ever losing consciousness? It is a terrifying thought that should move us to obedience, for this fire is reserved only for the wicked. Knowing this truth, we must obey the gospel so our names will be in the book of life and so we will not be among those who are reserved for fire.